Read the updated version of this post here.
“Just unsubscribed from a group which I had been a member for only 3 months. She was sharing free content, and did a couple of Facebook live videos in the group. A few days ago she posted that people are taking advantage, not hiring her as a coach after consuming her content. Literally she said ‘If you don’t want to move forward, just leave.” So I left, because I sensed anger and lack. And as a mindset coach, I thought she had some work to do on herself.”
— A public comment, shared with me by a reader.
First, I have to say that I can relate to this coach. I’ve been there too — thinking that just because I’ve shared a lot of free content with my audience, that they’re somehow supposed to buy from me. When they didn’t, I experienced some level of inner suffering, depression, cynicism.
In other words:
Resentment builds when we pretend to be generous, yet with an ulterior motive of expecting our audience to buy.
Fortunately, yet through difficult experiences, I’ve shifted my perspective. I hope that by sharing what I’ve learned, it’ll save you some pain and bring you more genuine success.
I now advocate for creating content as a service to others, and as an exploration of your own calling and voice.
Not: “If I create X content, I should expect X return.”
It is true that in the long-term, you will get enormous benefit by being generous and service-oriented… however it’s not realistic to try to figure out nor to expect what that exact return will be.
Expectations ruin relationships.
It has been wisely said by various spiritual teachers that “Expectations ruin relationships.”
More accurately we might say:
Expectations which result in an entitlement attitude, will ruin relationships.
If you look at your content marketing as building a relationship with your audience — a wise perspective — then if you feel entitled to them buying your stuff (“now that I’ve given so much”) your actions will tend to move into the territory of manipulation or resentment, and erode the relationship with your audience.
Always remember: we are not entitled to anything, not to our audience’s attention, let alone their purchases.
The Great Purpose of Creating Free Content
If you keep in your mind “I’m creating this content to get a certain number of sales,” you will always be on the verge of (or actually doing) the manipulation of your audience.
This creates suffering on all sides, because your audience will sense your manipulation, and your conscience will be whispering that you have an integrity problem.
The great purpose — a purpose you can fully embody with integrity — of creating free content, is to to clarify your own message and to gather and serve an audience of kindred spirits.
There is no end to that purpose. In my experience of personally coaching hundreds of content creators, it is not possible to one day finally have finished clarifying one’s message. It is an ever ongoing journey of deepening clarity, resonance, and precision.
Similarly you can never “finally” build an audience — it is an ever evolving audience, as more kindred spirits discover you, and as you yourself evolve.
…then how do we create content and make sales?
My advice to that resentful-feeling coach (with whom I can empathize because I’ve been there before), mentioned at the top of this article, is this:
- Understand the true purpose of creating free content. Make that purpose deeply integrated in yourself by reflecting on it — journaling, meditating, praying, or talking with a friend or coach about it.
- Create and share free content, consistently, with that renewed spirit of true generosity and exploration.
- As you gather an audience who are paying attention to your content, recognize how lucky you are that these people are willing to pay you their precious attention, when there are umpteen other articles they can read, millions of other videos they can watch or podcasts to listen to. The spending of time is the one currency none of us can get back. Appreciate your audience’s attention and deeply feel into your gratitude.
- Get really curious about what your audience most wants from you. Notice what pieces of content they most respond to, and make more content like that. Do this to serve your audience and further explore your Calling — which is the intersection between your passions, strengths, and what your audience wants from you.
- Talk to your audience about what services, products, or programs they would love to buy to further develop their knowledge. Recognize how fortunate you are to have an audience that you can talk to, to help you clarify these things!
- Create those services/products/programs that they have told you they want. Or alternatively, find someone else who provides those, and earn a commission in sharing that with your audience.
- Keep repeating these steps to build more understanding of your audience, of your own Calling, and to build a successful, authentic business.
Remember, your audience isn’t there for you to manipulate sales out of. You are so blessed to have an audience, no matter how small right now.
By following the steps above, you’ll grow your audience size, as well as your depth of relationship with them. And eventually, you’ll have plenty of grateful clients and customers as well.
Just don’t be fixated on an exact time it “should” happen. Keep returning to a focus on creating consistent content, from an attitude of service, curiosity, and gratitude.
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